While I have yet to buy me a smart watch (waiting for the Apple Watch, which should become a reality in April), I am already quite involved with how the presence of this new platform—the latest instrument to join the media quartet, making it a quintet--will affect the way we receive news and information.
As I have reported here, I am honored to be part of a research project with two students from Aarhus (Denmark) University as they embark on a project to explore the potential for news publishers involving smart watches. The media quintet in rehearsal!
Their project deals with “News on smart watches”. Specifically, the project will examine the possibilities smart watches give a news publisher, Berlingske Media, to provide their readers with relevant news in new formats. The goal is to provide a number of general design guidelines for a possible future smart watch news app through basic/fundamental research.
While the research project advances, and while we prepare a series of sketches to reflect what the design of headlines , news and visuals would be like on a smart watch, I am concentrating on the role that storytelling will play when presented on the face of a watch. How intrusive will it be? What will be our degree of tolerance for may be constant pings and alerts?
I am also fascinated by the possibilities. The watch is a platform we are used to utilizing from an early age. Familiarity with the platform is key, which should facilitate how we will relate to it in its new and very different function.
At a glance journalism
Let’s face it: we glance at our watches all the time. We also sneak glances out of our watches, like while sitting through a boring class or meeting.
It is more difficult to pull an iPhone out of one’s pocket or a purse in a crowded New York City subway that it would be to glance at one’s watch.
So, I predict that we will be doing a lot of glancing, as in reading seductive headlines and deciding if we read or not.
More likely, in the middle of a crowded subway car, we would want the headline to offer us two or three “decks” to extend the story. If we are totally interested, we may read the story later on a more comfortable platform screen.
But, could there be too many glances? Would too many constant alerts touching our wrists be irritating?
Right now, we get alerts on our iPhones, but it is a different thing to get those on your watch, I presume.
“Don’t alert me, bro,” writes Mathew Wingram a Toronto-based former senior writer with Gigaom.
“Even if news alerts are part of the mix for Apple Watch users, it’s not clear that simply duplicating existing iPhone alerts is going to work. Not only are many phone users (including me) already irritated by notifications, but a watch is even less conducive to interruptions because of its size. Many have started talking about the “glance” as the new atomic unit of attention when it comes to a watch — but how much information can a news organization convey in a single glance at a tiny screen?”
What's at a glance journalism?
Exactly what the phrase implies: tiny bits of information, a headline that gets you interested (or not), two or three decks as in an outline format, amplifying the story. Perhaps a photo, graphics or video.
Headlines will be as important, or more so, than those we write for mobile platforms. This is when we all need to remember the word “wearable”.
I am hoping that the research of the Aarhus University students, along with the team from Berlingske, the Danish daily, will be able to provide some answers.
One thing is for sure, with wearables, glance journalism gets out of the gate.
Headline writers, be prepared. Your job has never been more important.
Of related interest:
How media companies should be thinking about the Apple Watch
Everyone wants to get their news alerts onto the Apple Watch because it is the newest thing — but media outlets need to think long and hard about this new frontier and what it requires
The era of wearables is here
News on smartwatches: The Research